Friday, December 8, 2017

A Northwoods Almanac for 12/8/17

A Northwoods Almanac for Dec. 8 21, 2017  

Latest Numbers on Snowy Owls
As of 11/29, approximately 105 individual snowy owls have been reported in 44 Wisconsin counties. This is the largest total of snowy owls as of this date in the last eight years.   To see where the birds have been sighted in Wisconsin, go to Wisconsin eBird at, click “explore data,” click “species maps,” enter “snowy owl,” and then enter the date range (Oct. to Dec. 2017).
snowy owl photo by Dick Lemanski

Northern Highlands Citizen Science Network
            In this momentary time bubble of anti-science, a group of citizens who believe wholeheartedly in science has arisen to try to fill the void left by unfilled state position vacancies, position cuts, and reduced funding. Dr. Mike Meyer, retired research scientist for the WDNR, convened a meeting of area citizens last week to share current opportunities for citizens to be engaged in scientific research, and then to facilitate discussion of what a Northern Highlands Citizen Science Network could become.
            Nearly 100 people attended, including many leaders of ongoing citizen monitoring projects. Data from over 20 monitoring programs were shared, along with the myriad of ways to get involved.
            We heard about water-based projects like the Citizen Lake Monitoring Network which began in 1986 and which now has over 1,000 volunteers who measure water clarity, water chemistry, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and duration of ice cover, as well as mapping aquatic invasive species and native plants on lakes all around the state. The data is used to show trends in water quality and biological communities, and thus understand and better manage individual lakes. Nearly 150 lakes in Vilas County have been monitored, and the data for each lake over all these years is available online.
            We heard from the Wisconsin Action Volunteers who take many of the same measures on the 32,000 miles of Wisconsins perennial rivers and streams. Given the legal requirements of the WDNR to report the environmental status of all of our streams and rivers, citizen monitoring help in obtaining the data is essential.
            We heard about Loon Watch Monitoring, Mussel Monitoring, the Wisconsin Turtle Survey, and the Wisconsin Frog and Toad Survey which began in 1981 and is the longest running frog survey in the nation.
And we heard from the Wisconsin Healthy Lakes Project which analyzes all the monitoring data and helps individual lakeshore owners, lake associations, and public agencies apply the science on their properties.
            On the land-based side of things, we heard from the Iron County Citizen Science Project which includes an American marten study that was undertaken by Mercer and Hurley high school students. We heard from the Volunteer Carnivore Tracking Program, the Wisconsin Odonata (dragonfly/damselfly) Survey, the Wisconsin Bat Monitoring Program, the Hunter Wildlife Survey, the Wisconsin Master Naturalist Program, the Wisconsin Rare Plant Monitoring Program, the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas, and more.
Of the 20+ programs that were shared, many are coordinated through the Wisconsin Citizen-based Monitoring Network. The WCBM Network brings together citizens and professional scientists to work together in monitoring and evaluating Wisconsin’s natural resources, and helps to provide technical and financial support.
I was surprised when a friend from Michigan who was also attending the meeting said she was doing online searches for equivalent programs in Michigan and found few to none. Apparently, citizens in Wisconsin are still doing a lot of important work compared to other states.
            The good news behind the data collection is we require long-term data that can inform long-term decision-making. We’re all in this for the long haul. When the political pendulum swings back to respecting science, as it must, then with the help of citizen monitoring we’ll have the data necessary to honestly confront future issues.

New Loon Insights
Dr. Walter Piper in a 12/4/17 online post (see reports that hes discovered two new predictors for why loons may abandon their nests: lake size and the age of the nesting female. Dr. Piper just finished submitting a paper presenting evidence that large black fly hatches and their subsequent harassment of nesting loons can cause nest abandonment. 
loon covered with black flies, photo by Bob Kovar

However, in looking at all his data, he also found two unexpected factors: First, pairs on large lakes are less prone to nest abandonment than pairs on small lakes. Second, pairs containing an old female are far more likely to abandon a nest owing to black flies than are pairs containing young females.
            Why? Piper speculates that its all about energetics. Regarding lake size, he notes, Large lakes provide more food than small lakes, so loon pairs on large lakes should be in better health and condition than those on small lakes. Well-fed, healthy adults with strong immune systems should be better able to cope with the blood loss and exposure to blood-borne pathogens.
As for why older females are more likely to abandon their nests, he conjectures, Old females senesce . . . it stands to reason that old females are in poorer body condition and are more likely to abandon nests when attacked viciously by black flies. Reproductive decline among old females is widespread in animals, and the tendency of old female loons to abandon nests more readily seems consistent with that pattern.
Dr. Piper has studied loons on nearly 200 lakes in Oneida County since 1993. He along with Dr. Mike Meyer, retired wildlife toxicologist for the WDNR, lead the way nationally with their research on loon behavior, reproduction, habitat selection, migration, and the impacts of mercury and various diseases. Their exceptional scientific work has placed northcentral Wisconsin at the epicenter of loon research.

Alan Haney - Science on Tap
Speaking of loons, Alan Haney, Emeritus Professor of Forestry at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and an ecologist with over 40 years of field experience spoke at Novembers Science on Tap in Minocqua. When asked about which local bird species may be extirpated from our area due to climate change, he noted that common loons are very likely to be extirpated from Wisconsin by 2050. This brought an audible gasp from the audience who I suspect hadnt fully considered the impact of warming temperatures on our northern lakes.
Audubons Birds and Climate Change Report in 2014 noted that the common loon breeding range is likely to shrink 56% by 2080, shifting well north of Wisconsin. Loons are also projected to lose 75% of their current winter range with warming waters in the Gulf of Mexico.
Nest cameras have shown that incubating loons start to pant at 75°F, which is their normal response to warmer temperatures. As temperatures rise, adults spend more time off the nest to cool off, leaving the eggs prone to predators. In addition, preliminary research indicates that the porosity of egg shells changes at high temperatures, which can negatively affect the developing egg. Climate models also predict an increase in large rain events, something weve already seen in the Northwoods and around the country, which can lead to more flooded nests.
A loon stressed by heat, high parasite loads, mercury, and changes in food resources will likely be more vulnerable to infection and less resistant to the effects of stress. In addition, diseases may be introduced from further south, exposing loons and other wildlife to new pathogens to which they have no resistance. In 2015, for instance, a common loon in New England was found dead from avian malaria, the first known case of a loon dying of the tropical disease.
Its all about location, location, location or habitat, habitat, habitat. As habitats change, birds have to move to another place with the right conditions for them. As waters continue to warm, loons will have little choice but to move further north.

Winter Solstice
Winter solstice occurs on 12/21 this year, and it means different things to different people. It marks the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night, but it also marks the beginning of lengthening days and shortening nights. Its considered the official start of winter, though in the Northwoods, we all know winter started quite a while ago.
It also signals a rebirth, a reawakening, a cause for celebration. Many Neolithic archaeological sites such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland were aligned to capture the sun perfectly on the winter and summer solstice, indicating how profoundly significant those astronomical events were to them. The reversal of the sun’s ebbing offered promise ahead. The year was considered completed, and a rebirth was now at hand even though they knew January and February would still bring tremendous hardships.
Latitude determines just how dark your winter solstice will be. The length of the day in Minocqua will be 8 hours and 39 minutes. But further north in Fairbanks, Alaska, they’ll only see 3 hours and 41 minutes. However, in Honolulu, where they’ll experience 10 hours and 50 minutes of daylight, they could be sun-bathing!
Below the equator, the opposite is true, of course – it’s summer solstice. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, they’ll feel the sun’s warmth for 14 hours and 28 minutes. In Melbourne, Australia, they’ll see even more sunshine – 14 hours and 47 minutes worth.
The short days may influence some to seek airfare to the southern hemisphere, but remember, this is the rebirth. The sun will slowly rise earlier and set later, and theres definitely promise in that.

Christmas Bird Counts
            The 25th annual Manitowish Waters Christmas Bird Count takes place on 12/16, while the 21st annual Minocqua Christmas Bird Count takes place on 12/14. If on those days you see suspicious looking people eyeballing your bird feeders with binoculars, this will be the reason.

Celestial Events
            From 12/5 to 12/14, the years earliest sunsets will occur at 4:14 On 12/15, the sun will finally begin setting one minute later every day.
            Look before dawn for Mars and Jupiter bright in the east.
            In the late evening of 12/13 and early morning of 12/14, look for the peak Geminid meteor shower. This shower can reach 120 meteors per hour, so this is worth bundling up for.

Quote for the Week
The solstice once was an occasion for awe, when the ancient pleaded with the sun to refrain from vanishing into outer darkness. Year after year the prayers were answered. The sun did turn back form the abyss . . . [Today] we are confident that the sun will turn back from the abyss, but we arent at all sure what man will do next. Hal Borland

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Northwoods Almanac for 11/24/17

A Northwoods Almanac for 11/24 – 12/7/17  by John Bates

Sightings: Red Crossbills and Tundra Swans
            On 11/4, Mary and I kicked up three flocks of red crossbills while driving south on Hwy. 47 within a few miles of our house. The first flock held 30 birds, two of which were dead on the road, victims of the crossbill’s typical lack of wariness relative to cars. We were able to drive right up to this flock and watch them for several minutes without their expressing the least interest in us.

red crossbill photo by Sarah Krembs

Currently, red crossbills are classified as coming in ten varieties, or types, each one associated with one or more different conifer species. Each type also produces a slightly different call note, distinguishable by experts on a spectrogram. The ten types also show slight differences in size and beak shape, as well as differences in their ranges.
Watch for small flocks of red crossbills on roadsides and often in the middle of the road, and be sure to slow down. These birds experience little contact with humans, and thus many have not learned the danger of cars.
On 11/12, Sarah Krembs was walking with friends in Manitowish Waters when she started hearing “unusual sounds in the sky.” Here’s how she went on to describe the sounds and how she eventually identified them. “My brain's first thought was there was a bunch of grade school kids playing on a playground laughing and yelling. Then a “vee” of swans came into view, and they were the sound! I knew they weren't trumpeter swans, and thought they might be tundras migrating, but I don't have any experience with those swans. There were 35 of them. I went home, got on the computer and played sounds from tundras on and what do you know...that's what we heard!”
Tundras have two separate wintering populations that migrate south from their breeding grounds in arctic wetlands. One group winters mostly along the west coast of the U.S., while the other group that we see in Wisconsin stops over for many weeks along the upper Mississippi River, and then flies east non-stop for 1600 miles to winter on Chesapeake Bay and along the coast of North Carolina. Their calls are usually compared to barking dogs or a flock of geese but at a higher pitch.

Ibis in Boulder Junction!
John and Pam Winkelman in Boulder Junction sent an email describing their remarkable encounter with an ibis: John and I went out on our property with our two dogs about 3:30 pm on October 30th . . . [the dogs] took off like rockets as soon as we opened door, so we quickly ran to their side knowing they must have spotted an animal. The two dogs were standing about 15 feet away from an area behind one of our garages, barking their heads off. A large bird appeared to be hunkered down in a small clearing in our woods. John got the dogs inside while I walked closer to the bird to see if it was injured. I thought it might be an injured duck, but much to my surprise it had a long, thin neck, a very small head, and a long curved bill. It was an iridescent green color. It looked kind of prehistoric! It was obvious from the position of its right wing that the wing was probably broken.

Pam with the injured ibis (photo by Pam Winkelman)

            I ran back to the house and called the Northwoods Wildlife Center and was asked to try and catch it and bring it in. John and I grabbed two big bath towels with the idea that we could wrap it up in at least one of them. As I approached the bird, it rose up on its very long, spindly legs and trotted off across the open area through the woods, down a wooded hill, and into Upper Gresham Lake. John joined me and we followed it to the waters edge. There was a partially submerged log sticking out in the water from the shore. The bird tried to pull itself up onto the log using its bill. The injured wing prevented it from being successful, and it fell head first into the water. John jumped in with a towel and threw it over its body, and he was able to grab it. He passed the bird to me, and I simply wrapped the other towel around the wet bird and the wet towel it was already wrapped in. There was some snow on the ground and the temperature at our property was below freezing.
            We immediately got to our car and drove to the Wildlife Center. They immediately took the bird in to be examined, and we were told it had a broken femur and had lost blood.
“[The next day] we were very saddened to hear that the ibis did not survive, but this is not surprising considering its injury.
The Winkelmans story is remarkable because neither of the two species of ibis, white-faced or glossy, are known to nest in Wisconsin. In fact, the glossy ibis nests along the Atlantic coast from New Brunswick through Florida, but rarely inland, while the white-faced ibis nests mostly in western states.
I emailed Ryan Brady, expert birder and research scientist with the WDNR in Ashland, to ask his opinion. He wrote, “[In Wisconsin] White-faced ibis occurs most frequently (a handful each year now) and has been increasing in frequency in the past decade or so, especially in spring. They may have nested one year at a SE WI wetland, but it wasnt entirely confirmed. Glossy ibis is very rare, being more of a coastal species than an interior one like white-faced and has never nested here. There were several white-faced seen in WI around the time of this discovery, though obviously that doesnt clinch the ID as such. Regardless, a white-faced record this far north is exceptional as most are found south of the north woods and tension zone. The late date is also pretty incredible. One has to wonder what happened here?!
Ryan added in a later email, Some ibises occur throughout summer months [in WI], but this is common among the large wading birds as they have a large contingent of non-breeders in the population and juveniles that disperse . . . White-faced, for example, are seen throughout the New England coast in June-July but dont breed there either. We are hoping to find the states first confirmed nesting of white-faced during this [Breeding Bird] Atlas. 

Snowy Owl Invasion Again?
Wisconsin is again experiencing a possible snowy owl invasion year. As of 11/15, 37 distinct snowies, nearly all juveniles, had been documented in the state. The question is whether the numbers will continue to increase or fizzle. Ryan Brady published the following numbers for comparison over the last five years:
Year                First in WI       # by11/15        #by 1/15
2017-18:          10/20               37                   ??
2016-17:          11/15               2                      49
2015-16:          10/15               79                   131
2014-15:          11/1                 28                   239
2013-14:          11/15               1                     229     
            The Lake Michigan shoreline appears to be a favored wintering area. Four snowies alone were reported at the Sheboygan harbor marina on 11/18.

snowy owl on Lake Minocqua in 2015

Wolf Bill
Reps. Adam Jarchow, Mary Felzkowski and Romaine Quinn, along with Sen. Tom Tiffany, have proposed a bill that would profoundly alter the states effort to manage wolves.
Directly quoting from the proposed bill:
“No law enforcement officer may knowingly enforce or attempt to enforce a federal or state law that relates to the management of the wolf population in this state or that prohibits the killing of wolves in this state.
“Neither the department [WDNR] nor its staff may do any of the following:
1. Expend funds for the purpose of managing the wolf population in this state other than     for any of the following purposes:
a. Paying claims under the endangered resources program for damage caused by                  wolves.
b. Taking action to protect private property, including domestic cattle, from wolf      depredation.
2. “Take any action to inform or support federal law enforcement officers regarding the       enforcement of any federal or state law relating to wolves.”
            The lawmakers released the proposal on 11/8 in a memo to their colleagues seeking co-sponsors, saying that “Wolves have taken over northern Wisconsin. They are depredating our deer population, killing livestock and attacking family pets . . . wolves [are] running rampant throughout our state.”
Such a claim requires objective proof that wolves are running rampant. I looked up the 2017 online DNR wolf depredation records that show as of 11/17 that there have been 39 confirmed wolf attacks on 17 hunting dogs, 20 cattle, 1 sheep and 1 pet dog, along with 11 probable other wolf depredations. Importantly, 13 of those attacks come from what the DNR labels as “Chronic Farms.” For comparison, the DNR recorded 76 confirmed wolf attacks in 2016.
Under “Confirmed Non-Wolf Depredations” are 2 pet dogs by coyotes, 13 cattle by coyotes, 1 goat by coyotes, 1 cattle by a black bear, 1 hunting dog by a black bear, and 1 cattle by a domestic dog.
These statistics and the proposed bill beg two questions: Do the statistics equate to wolves running rampant and taking over the state? And who, if not the DNR, would be in charge of managing wolves in Wisconsin, since management entails far more than paying claims and protecting private property?
Wisconsin has a long and proud tradition of wildlife management based on scientific research, carefully gathered field records, and engagement with citizens and public agencies. This proposal would clearly reverse that, as well as abrogating the ethical and legal responsibilities required of our DNR wildlife managers.
Wisconsins wolf population was estimated at between 925 and 952 wolves last winter. For perspective, Wisconsin covers 36 million acres; however, wolves mostly occupy the northern one-third of the state. So, that’s about 1,000 wolves spaced over 12 million acres, or 1 per 12,000 acres.

Celestial Events
            Woody Hagge’s temperature records for the Hazelhurst area show that on 11/27 our average high temperature drops to 32° for the first time since March 5. Woody notes that our area averages 100 days a year where high temperatures never get above freezing.
Ice-up has been a variable affair so far with many smaller lakes, ponds, and bays lightly icing-over weeks ago and then losing their ice when a big wind has come up. Where ice has stayed, it currently remains unsafe for anyone other than otters, who are the only animals I know that are quite happy if they fall through.
            Shades of gray describes this November. And for many, it’s meant an emotional grayness as well. Sullen, dismal, dreary, dingy, gloomy, bleak – need I go on? Here’s hoping for more sun and blue sky.
            December’s full moon occurs on 12/3. Called variously the “popping trees” moon, the “long night” moon, or simply the “cold” moon, it will be the year’s closest and largest full moon.

Thought for the Week
      Winter is a predictable kind of Armageddon, a calamity calmly weathered, an end of a world that they [wildlife] understand and are preparing for; caught between the forces of darkness and light. – Diana Kappel-Smith

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Northwoods Almanac for 11/10/17

A Northwoods Almanac for 11/10 – 23, 2017  

Hungry Bear(s)!
On 10/19, Bruce Bacon, retired DNR wildlife manager from Mercer, shot a large buck with his bow about 20 minutes before quitting time. Bruce is a skilled archer and made a killing shot in the buck’s lungs, but the deer ran and didn’t bleed out initially. With the light beginning to fail, Bruce tried to track it, but just couldn’t see enough, so he had to wait until morning.
The following morning, he found the track and found the buck, now a nearly cleaned skeleton. Every bit of meat on the deer had been consumed except for the neck. Importantly, the lungs, stomach, and heart were not eaten, an indication that the scavenger was a bear since coyotes and wolves tend to eat the lungs and heart very early after a kill.
Bruce aged the buck at 3½ years, and estimated that it would have had around 100 pounds of meat on it. There weren’t any clear tracks, so Bruce put up a trail camera by the skeleton, and that evening a lone coyote was all that appeared. The second day, Bruce counted 30 crows, several ravens, and an adult bald eagle attending to what little was left of the deer. All Bruce could conclude was that it was a bear, or perhaps a sow with cubs or yearlings. If it was just one bear, he or she certainly had a feast.
Bruce noted that sows typically go into hibernation in early October and the males much later. But we had a warm October, so sows may still have been out and about.
Wisconsin has one of the highest bear reproduction rates in the nation. The Wisconsin bear population is estimated at 28,000 and has grown on average 3.4% annually since 1988. I asked Bruce if the increases could be partially attributed to eating gut piles and/or deer carcasses from bow hunter success just prior to the bears’ entering hibernation. No, Bruce said, it’s due to the immense amount of bait put out for both bear and deer. Nearly all bear hunters – there were 12,850 permits issued this year – bait for bears. In fact, work published in a research paper released in July found baits comprised more than 40% of the diet of bears harvested in northern Wisconsin (“Consumption of intentional food subsidies by a hunted carnivore” - Kirby, Pauli, and MacFarland, The Journal of Wildlife Management).  
Wisconsin allows 180 days of baiting beginning in mid-April through the end of the hunting season in October, virtually the entire active period for bears. The DNR estimates more than 4 million gallons of bear bait are placed annually throughout mostly northern Wisconsin.
Bears that are fatter going into winter have bigger litters. Bears mate in June but embryo implantation is delayed until the start of the denning season. If a sow goes into winter underweight and undernourished, the embryos won’t attach to the uterine wall and develop. The better fed she is, the more likely she’ll have more cubs than the normal two to three.
Regarding deer bait, how much is eaten by bears is impossible to determine, but bears are surely taking their share. Even in those counties where baiting and feeding deer is prohibited due to chronic wasting disease, baiting and feeding is permissible as long as the food isn't intended to draw in deer for hunting.
Bruce noted that he would have gladly shared some of the deer with a coyote, since a lone coyote could probably only eat up to five pounds of meat. But the bear, or bears, were a different story.

Deer and Wolf Talk in Mercer
            Keith McCaffery, retired Wisconsin state deer biologist from Rhinelander, and Adrian Wydeven, retired DNR wolf biologist who headed the DNR wolf program for 23 years, recently gave a highly informative talk in Mercer on the state’s deer and wolf populations. Wydeven discussed the recovery of wolves across the state, the recent wolf listings by the federal government and the impact of wolves on deer, beaver, and broader ecosystems. McCaffery discussed the dynamics of deer populations with and without wolves, reviewed the deer population “bubble” of 1995-2007, and offered thoughts on current management policies.
            I came away with many thoughts, but they all confirmed the extreme importance of scientific research. Both men provided extensive data derived from the best research done in the state and regionally, and then carefully offered their insights on the complex questions of where we need to go with management.
I was struck by one graph related to the Winter Severity Index, a measurement that helps gauge the effects of winter weather on deer survival. The index was developed in the early 1970’s and is calculated by adding the number of days with 18 inches or more of snow on the ground with the number of days when the minimum temperatures were 0°F or below. The severity of the winter is then based on the total number of points accumulated – a winter with an index of less than 50 is considered mild, 50 to 79 is moderate, 80 to 99 is severe, and over 100 is very severe. Note that WSI data is not collected in the southern portions of the state because the milder conditions don’t significantly impact the deer herds there.
In very severe winters, up to 30% of the deer herd may be lost, dramatically affecting the overall populations. In mild winters, deer survival is high as is reproductive success.
Historically, severe to very severe winter conditions were commonly reported across the northern forest region from the early 1960s through the late 1980s. From 1960-1989, there were 12 mild and 11 severe or very severe winters. However, over the last 26 winters from 1990 to 2016-17, we’ve experienced 19 mild winters (scores less than 50), 3 moderate, 1 severe, and 3 very severe, including the record-harsh WSI of 2013-14.
The deer population is controlled largely by three factors – winter severity, habitat, and hunting. If winters continue to be less of a limiting factor, and does continue to be excluded from harvesting, deer populations should rapidly rebound, and we’ll likely soon be back to the quandary of how to control our over-population of deer.
By the way, the winter of 2016–2017 rated as ‘mild’. The average WSI across 32 stations was 30.1 compared with a 57-yr average of 60.8 and median of 49.0. Assuming adequate habitat, the last three consecutive mild winters then should have resulted in a strong population recovery.
Time will tell, of course. The issue that concerns all wildlife managers now is that deer no longer have to be brought to a registration station – one can just go home and report a kill via computer or phone within 24 hours. So, now age and condition data, as well as confirmed numbers, can no longer be assessed. As a result, we’ve sacrificed the collection of scientific data for hunter convenience, and now we will manage deer based on stories and political bias/whim, a trade-off that is in no one’s best interest.
To add further to this foolishness, on 11/2 the State Assembly passed a bill (AB 455) 57-32 allowing people of any age to participate in a mentored hunt, effectively letting anyone hunt. The measure also eliminates the requirement that a hunter and mentor have only one weapon between them. This eliminates the state's minimum hunting age which currently requires that a resident must be at least 12 years old to purchase a hunting license or hunt with a gun unless they're participating in a mentored hunt (children as young as 10 can hunt under that program). The measure now goes to the State Senate.

Sightings – Tufted Titmouse, Snow Buntings, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Snowy Owls, Horned Larks
Joyce and Jim Stocker on Carlin Lake spotted a tufted titmouse on their feeders, and soon after, their neighbors Duane and Ann Swift also spotted a titmouse, presumably the same one, on their feeders. Tufted titmice nest as far north as central Wisconsin, so a sighting up our way is always an exciting event. During the past 70 years, the range of this species has expanded northward into New England and southern Canada, with climatic warming likely the most important factor along with bird feeders. Like northern cardinals and red-bellied woodpeckers, we can expect to see them nesting here in the next decade as climate change continues.

photo by Joyce Stocker

Migrating snow buntings are commonly being seen along roadsides. They’ll typically winter as far north as southern Wisconsin, where they can feed on the ground without worrying too much about deep snowfall, but they can winter further north if it’s a poor snow year.
Sarah Krembs sent me a photo of eight horned larks that were migrating through Powell Marsh on 10/20. Like snow buntings, they’ll migrate well south, but only need to go as far as where ground is exposed. We’ve never seen one up here in the winter, but a minimal snow year could make it possible.

photo by Sarah Krembs

The first snowy owls are being seen in the state. Six had been reported as of 10/31.
A female red-bellied woodpecker appeared at our feeders on 11/2. Why now and not all summer?

photo by Bee Engstrom

Sharon Lintereur sent me a fine photo of trumpeter swans that she and Erika Lintereur saw in Presque Isle. Some trumpeters will stay the winter, while others are now or will soon be migrating.

photo by Erika Lintereur

Cranes Staging
Staff at Crex Meadows State Wildlife Area conducted their annual fall sandhill crane count on 10/30 and tabulated 10,929 cranes flying out from the marshes on Crex and the nearby Fish Lake Wildlife Areas.  Other major staging areas in Wisconsin include White River Marsh, Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Sandhill State Wildlife Area, the Wisconsin River near the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, and Comstock Marsh.
As winter begins to set in, the cranes will catch mid-November winds, circle up to heights of 5,000 feet, and head further south, most to spend their winters in Florida.

Celestial Events
            Before dawn on 11/12, look for the North Taurid meteor shower, a modest event averaging about 10 meteors per hour. On 11/13, look before dawn for Venus just above Jupiter. Mars will be near the waning crescent moon on 11/14 and 11/15 – look before dawn again. On 11/16, look, you guessed it, before dawn for Jupiter about 4 degrees south of the moon. The peak Leonid meteor shower occurs before dawn on 11/17, offering an average of 15 meteors per hour. You can also see Venus about 4 degrees south of the moon that early morning. So, get up early this next week!

Thought for the Week
“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers . . . The sportsman of the future must get his satisfactions by enlarging himself rather than by enlarging his bag.” - Aldo Leopold